Quick and Dirty Paperback Formatting, Front Matter

In a previous post we discussed the universal formatting guidelines for formatting your paperback book. In this post we’ll delve into the front matter specifically. What is front matter, you ask? A more important question is who came up with the term, “front matter” to begin with? Personally I want to thank them for not following suite with terms like recto and verso. They could have labeled all this stuff something like, “principium logos.”

Anywho, front matter is simply all the stuff you want to include at the front of your book before the story itself. Some of it is downright required while the rest of it is up to personal taste and business strategy. Let’s start with the required bits.

Title Page

I recommend you don’t get too tricky with this one. Make your title page the very first non-blank page of your book. Make sure it is a recto (right-handed page) so it jumps right out to the reader as the first thing they look at. Include the complete title of your book. Include the full author name.

Make sure you use text and not images for this vital information. Platforms such as Kindle Direct Publishing will search the text of the title page to make sure that the title inside your book matches with the title on the cover as well as the title you enter in the title field while uploading your product to Amazon. This is done in part to prevent authors from stuffing keywords into the title field and in part to prevent scammers from loading fake or plagiarized content.

Center justify everything, and use just enough page padding (blank lines at the top of the page) to result in a more or less vertically centered title page. If you want to add some flair, it’s totally fine to use a more ornate font for the title of the book. Be careful not to get crazy with this. Don’t use a font that makes your book look unprofessional. But you should feel free to select a science fiction font for a science fiction book or a horror font for a horror book. Select something a bit more flowing for a romance. I will say this, if you are wondering whether a font is too over the top or too difficult to read, the answer is yes. Always error on the conservative side. A boring title page is better than a stupid one. Oh, and don’t rip off a font you don’t have the rights to use. A boring title page is also better than an illegal one.

If you want to drop an image onto this page, it’s a perfect place for a publisher logo. Even if you are a self-publishing indie author, there is no reason why you can’t create your own publishing company and give it a logo. A simple logo dropped between the book title and the author name can bring some gravitas to your title page. Make sure you load an image without a background. Otherwise, when you get the proof, this logo will show up on the creme or off-white colored page with a white box around it. And that’s no bueno for sure.

Copyright Page

Technically, there is nothing that says your copyright page has to go in the front matter, but it does have to be in the book somewhere. The only compelling reason I can think of for including the copyright page in the back is to not use up the free sample portion of an ebook with clutter no one wants to read. This obviously only applies to ebooks. So for your paperback, it makes the most sense to tuck your copyright page on the verso (left-hand) page right after the title page.

I’ll go into more detail on the copyright page in a separate post. Here it must suffice to mention the basic components you’ll need. The copyright contents must include your full book title and your full author name. Again, make sure these match the title page and the front cover so you don’t get hung up when trying to publish. You also must include the ISBN.

The copyright page should include the year the book was and/or is being published. Include any other technical credits such as the cover artist and/or designer. It’s standard practice to include the name of the publisher and the publisher’s address, including the country. Feel free to include your name as the publisher if you want. At some point on the copyright page you want to include “All rights reserved.” This should be followed by a disclaimer that can come from any number of free boilerplates out there.

That about does it for the required bits. Now for the optional stuff!

Dedication and Acknowledgements

Publishing a book is a monumental accomplishment, and it makes sense to want to include the people who have helped out and meant the most to us along the way. There are no hard and fast rules about the ordering of these pages in the front matter, but dedications are typically recto pages so that they stand out.

If you’re not into adding blank pages to your book just to waste paper, it works out pretty well to put the dedication right after the copyright. For those of you keeping track, that’s a recto title page, a verso copyright page, and a recto dedication page with no wasted blank pages in between. If you have a few short acknowledgements there is also no good reason why you can’t combine these pages. If you have a few paragraphs or more of acknowledgements then you will probably want to create a separate recto page for those.

It’s most common to center justify this content. Use a standard font. I like to use italics for my dedication, but hey, to each their own.

Promotion, Series Reading Order, More From this Author

I’ll go into more detail on these potential pages in the post that covers sales funnels. For now, I’ll say you should consider including at least one page at this point in your book that serves the purpose of selling the reader on additional stories. Don’t think of this as being pushy or sleazy. The reader just bought (or at least picked up) your book. They want what you are putting down. Make sure they at least know you have more stuff like what they are currently holding in their hands. This is not where you create a call to action such as “sign up for my weekly email” or “read this book next.” This is where you inform the reader that there is more to come. Make your first attempt at wooing a reader to become a fan.

Table of Contents

Don’t do it. I’ve gotten into some fights over this one, but in my humble opinion (okay, I’m not all that humble) the TOC is more pain than it’s worth when it comes to fiction. For nonfiction a TOC is almost required. For fiction it just isn’t needed in the vast majority of cases.

If you simply must include a table of contents (for an anthology or something similar), it typically falls after the title page, copyright, dedication and promotions, while coming before any sort of introduction or preface. Start the TOC on a recto page.

Introduction, Preface, Prologue, Note from the Author, Blah, Blah, Blah

There are more names for these types of pages than I have the energy to list. And I’ve been told that each one is unique from all the others. It’s more than I can sort out. Name them whatever you want. Just understand that 80% of readers will ignore them. I personally am not one of those readers. So if you are targeting me with a book, most definitely include one of these pages if, and only if, it contributes to the story…and you are okay with most readers skipping over it.

That’s the tricky balance with these types of pages. If the information is critical to your story, title it Chapter One or Chapter Zero or something that people will read. Even if the information really is a prologue to the rest of the story, it might still benefit you to call the prologue Chapter One.

If the content is pertinent, but not critical, or if the content is written by another person than the main author then it should probably be included in the front matter as an introduction or preface of some sort.

Maps and Artwork

This type of stuff is simply cool. It’s fun world building junk that we authors really groove on. For the most part, I can’t think of any good reasons not to include it as long as you do it professionally. Don’t include your kid’s hand drawn art because you are proud of them. Think of it this way, if the art isn’t at least as good as your writing what kind of message are you sending the reader? They will see the art before they read your book, especially if you’re including it at the beginning. Make sure it is good.

Sometimes I like to include character art on verso pages that would otherwise be empty. I use episodes and scenes instead of parts and chapters. This means I highlight the episode title on a recto page, skip a page, and then start scene one on another recto page. The verso page in between the two makes an excellent place for some kind of illustration.

Half-title Page

In some cases, it’s smart to repeat the title page after all the front matter as a means of denoting the beginning of the story. What is commonly called a Half-title page will include only the title of the book and not the author name. Think of the half title as the cue for an antsy reader who is anxious to skip all the front matter and just wants to know where the story begins. If you include several pages of front matter including a lengthy introduction, you should consider dropping in a half-title on a recto page right before your first chapter.

That’s it! You’ve survived the front matter! Once you’ve gone through this process once, it becomes much easier with all the books that follow (especially if you’re writing in a series). Take some time to scan several examples from published books in your genre. Find the look and feel you like the best. Then in the future you can simply copy and paste the template you’ve created. Happy publishing! In our next post we’ll cover copyright pages in more detail. Then we’ll dig into sales funnels!

January 20, 2020


David is an authorpreneur, and StoryShop co-founder, determined to discover the natural evolution of digital storytelling. His published works span across all ages and several genres. Mostly, he enjoys exploding things. If you‘ve read for twenty pages and nothing has been blown up or shot, then David must be losing his edge.

Feel free to google, poke, fan, or like him. But do so quickly, before he is disappeared by the FBI. Raised in Central Texas, David Mark Brown learned to ride horses at a young age. Then learned to hate them after a disastrous attempt to impress a girlfriend. He was five. Turning to a life of prose, he migrated north to the University of Montana (the Berkeley of the Rockies) and became the Redneck Granola.

David invites you to enjoy the show!

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